Seoul: North Korea fires ballistic missile off east coast

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The U.S. has issued what seemed to be its "last warning" to North Korea over its continued launch of ballistic missiles that threaten the country and its allies-Japan and South Korea.

South Korea said a ballistic missile was sacked from the eastern coastal town of Sinpo at 6.42am local time and flew for about 37 miles (60km) before landing in the Sea of Japan.

"It spun out of control after going only a fraction of its range", the official said.

More recently, North Korea failed in an attempt to fire a missile off its east coast after it exploded shortly after launch.

China maintains that the nuclear issue is one between North Korea and the USA, and China is doing its part by enforcing United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang and calling for dialogue to resume.

North Korea's medium-range ballistic missile was tracked by the U.S. Pacific Command, which was initially assessment for nearly 10 minutes before crashing into the sea.

"The stated goal of the last test was to validate the nuclear weapon design that would arm all of North Korea's missiles", Lewis said of North Korea's September 2016 nuclear test - its fifth and largest to date.

In February the North simultaneously fired four ballistic missiles off its east coast, three of which fell provocatively close to Japan.

Some experts think North Korea has tried to make sure the two world leaders are aware Pyongyang has a bargaining chip in any forthcoming moves to clam down on its weapons programs.

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U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged the launch in a statement but said the U.S. had spoken enough about North Korea and would not comment further. Many weapons experts say the North could have a functioning nuclear-tipped missile capable of reaching the continental USA within a few years.

A nuclear-capable SLBM system would take the North's threat to a new level, allowing deployment far beyond the Korean peninsula and a "second-strike" capability in the event of an attack on its army bases.

"They have been doing so many test launches last year and this year to develop systems to transport nuclear warheads", said Kim Dong-yub, a professor at Kyungnam University's Institute of Far Eastern Studies in Seoul. Most of North Korea's missiles use liquid propellant, which usually must be added on the launch pad before the weapon is fired.

Dr Bong Young Shik of Yonsei University's Institute for North Korean Studies said the USA has made clear it will not soften its stance towards North Korea.

The firing was made as South Korean and US troops were conducting annual military drills that the North views as an invasion rehearsal.

And now, experts agree, North Korea is closing in on the ability to hit the United States with a missile, a goal that for decades has been the subject of Pyongyang's vivid propaganda posters.

North Korea's foreign ministry on Monday assailed Washington for its tough talk and for an ongoing joint military exercise with South Korea and Japan which Pyongyang sees as a dress rehearsal for invasion.

The 60 kilometers is a relatively short flight compared with the distances that other North Korean missiles flew.